In a few short weeks Covid-19 has utterly changed life as we know, but how will it change the future?
Most people are still coming terms with the day-to-day reality of fundamentally changed world. We are adjusting to an economy in shut down in a way that most people alive today could never have imagined possible. What is happening now isn't a recession as we have known them because it isn't created by the repetitive failure of a man made wealth machine.
In our global race to ever increasing consumption, Nature has simply stopped us in our tracks.
This isn't going to be the short term either. Whether it takes weeks or months or years to get the virus under control, doesn't really matter anymore. After the loss and the grief, after the shock and the despair, after the time in which we can once again touch, and hug, and congregate together for play and joy, there will still be a greater legacy to overcome.
The real recovery will be restarting an economy that has been hopelessly stalled. Many of the businesses who are closing their doors today will never reopen. Those that do will come back slowly, struggling to regain both economic and human capital and then struggling again to unlock people from their contraction, poverty and fear.
I believe that this moment in time will mark a radical change in the world, an epochal shift from BC (before Coronavirus) to whatever comes next. Things will not return to the way they were any time soon, and perhaps, after the pain, this is a good thing.
I am not the first to remark that this current reality appears to be resetting things. Social contracts, governments, ecosystems, markets, employment and all the myriad of activities that we humans do in our ant-like busyness has just come to a crashing halt and, not wishing to be insensitive to the pain and fear it is causing many, people seem to be enjoying some it.
It's ironic, but in this time of social isolating I have never seem more people strolling the open spaces and not seen more good will and friendliness from people who would ordinarily pass each other by, silent and separate. Introducing a 1.5 meter physical space appears to be bridging a divide of light years.
I look on social media and find that the endless barrage of righteousness, polarisation and group-against-group vitriol (which had me rename Facebook to Hatebook) has not ceased, but diminished trememdously. People are caring about each other, supporting each other, trying to make each other laugh and encouraging each other again.
It's a bold call but it seems to me that economic globalisation was driving us ever further apart. Our bigger world was making us small, siloing us into ever smaller boxes. We leave in our car box, work in an office box on our computer box, return to our home box, turn on 'the' box (TV) which is fed by our streaming service box and while we are doing that we are looking at our phone box and order things we don't need to arrive at our door in a box. On the weekend we drive our car box to the shopping centre box and buy more boxes of stuff we don't need.
When did life get so square?
Guilty as charged by the way - my ever suffering spouse had to ban me from the middle aisle of Aldi for a while, until I got my addiction under control. Addiction is feeling compelled to do something we know to be bad for us, except the consumption addiction we have become mired in isn't just bad for us, its bad for the planet, bad for our families, bad for each other.
Addictions also never truly satisfy. A short burst of dopamine and and adrenaline to lift us from our misery, soon followed by a feeling of ever increasing emptiness, which we try to fill with ever-increasing amounts of stuff that is hurting us. More money, bigger house, better alcohol, nicer car, larger television, brand name clothing and so forth. More and more of less and less.
Perhaps the coronavirus is our opportunity to reset ourselves. Our chance to figure out what we really want and who we really want to be. Perhaps it will teach us to be stronger, more resilient, more intentional, more creative, more supportive and more present in this moment. Perhaps the Coronavirus will show us our real values, return us to our feelings, stop us from chasing after momentary pleasures and start cultivating enduring satisfaction.
Perhaps the Corona virus is a global detoxification from the addiction of chasing wealth, status and 'things'. Like all detoxification, the first part really hurts, and we don't think we can survive it, but we do. After the pain has passed (and all growth requires pain) we start to feel truly alive again, truly connected, truly human.
What if we didn't race to rebuild our lives as they used to be? What if we took a moment to come back to a simpler and more satisfying way of being, and gave some time to reflect on what really makes us happy?
What if we let the Corona virus reset our lives?
It could, if we want it to. The Corona virus won't change the future, but we might.